Great writers sometimes deal awkwardly with impending mortality. Garcia-Marquez, eight decades in and cooled by cancer, delivers a cranky 90-year-old Sunday newspaper columnist and brothel addict who falls crazily in love with an adolescent prostitute procured by local madam Rosa Cabarcas.
The prose is gently ornate — an ode to bittersweet Latin nostalgia — but the conceit stilted. The girl, Delgadina, is less a living creature than the marble recipient of a paean: “Her entire body resonated inside with an arpeggio, and her nipples opened and flowered without being touched.” This feels like García Márquez’s compulsory response to the “deterioration of the world,” and his own. It’s shriveled.